Landmark assisted decision-making legislation commenced and new regulator (DSS) opens its doors to the public | Fieldfisher
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Landmark assisted decision-making legislation commenced and new regulator (DSS) opens its doors to the public

Hannah Unger



On 26 April 2023, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the "Act") commenced and the Decision Support Service (DSS) officially opened its doors to the public with its full legislative provisions enacted.
The Act
The Act provides for a new human rights-based framework for people with capacity issues. The Act also abolishes the current wards of court system and replaces it with a modern, person-centred framework to maximise autonomy for people who require support to make decisions about their personal welfare, property and financial affairs.
The DSS is the service established by the Act to, inter alia, regulate and register decision support arrangements, supervise the actions of decision supporters and investigate complaints made against them under the Act.  The DSS will also assist adults who may require help, now or in the future, to exercise their right to make decisions about personal welfare, property or their affairs.
Up to 220,000 Irish people who currently have difficulties with decision-making will be supported by the new service. This includes adults with an intellectual disability, a mental illness, an acquired brain injury, or those with neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.
As anyone could face challenges with decision-making in their future lives, the Act also provides new tools for any adult who wishes to plan ahead by way of an advance healthcare directive, or a revised form of an enduring power of attorney. The DSS can also support people to plan for the future by utilising these tools.
Welcoming the official launch, Leo Varadkar, An Taoiseach stated that the service is an important one that is both progressive and far-reaching:

“The Decision Support Service is a progressive and far-reaching new state-run service that will benefit many people, particularly those who experience challenges in terms of their needs or decision-making abilities. “The service will allow people to exercise more independence relating to their legal affairs and their future. It will provide assistance and assurance to a great many people and their families.”

The Director of the DSS, Áine Flynn, said that the Act is a critically important piece of legislation and one which will help to ensure that Ireland is compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

“At different times in our lives, we all need to make decisions. We make important decisions about our finances, property, employment, accommodation, healthcare and social supports. Every adult is presumed to be able to make their own decisions and should be supported to do so. The Act provides tiers of decision support, overseen by the DSS, each with varying levels of responsibility, depending on what the relevant person wants and the decisions that they need to take. That is not to say that these new supports are imposed on anyone. People should feel reassured that the extent to which an individual or their family needs to engage with the 2015 Act and the DSS will depend on their circumstances and the decisions that they need to take.
The Act also enables people to plan ahead, while they have capacity to do so, with enduring powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives. This is something that is beneficial across all of society.
“We can all justifiably celebrate this morning, knowing that the Act has been commenced and the DSS is opening its doors. We now look forward to helping people access the new service and all of the supports set out under the Act.”

For more information on the DSS, visit

Discharge of Wards

As set out above, a key reform under the Act includes the abolition of the wards of court system for adults under the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act of 1871, and the discharge of adults from wardship within three years. On 26 April 2023, the High Court also published Practice Direction HC120 relating to discharge from wardship applications. The Practice Direction sets out the procedure to be followed and the papers to be lodged / filed in order to make an application to discharge someone from wardship. The Practice Direction can be accessed here

Written by: Eimear Burke and Hannah Unger

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory